“THE BROKEN TRUST” was started in 1994 and completed in February 2010.
This piece of work was done by a former residential school survivor who spent 12 of his 58 years in Residential Schools starting when he was 5 years old.
Arthur Joe is a Southern Tutchone man born in the Yukon Territory. He is from the Wolf clan and a member of the Champagne/Aishinik First Nation.
Arthur was born February 18, 1952. He went to the Lower Post Residential School for 10 years. His last 2 years were spent at Coudet residence- another branch of the residential schools. When he left residential school Arthur was full of hatred, hurt, anger, frustration, resentment and held on to all the negative feelings that go with being taken away from your family at a young age.
Arthur’s first attempt at his painting began in 1994. This piece of work was started 3 different times, each time the painting changed and got a little larger. In the first attempt the bear was as big as the man, the second time the bear continued to get larger. In the final attempt the bear grew in size. The work shows the bear at its most powerful point as well as more details to depict the anger, frustrations, abuses, hurts and overwhelming sadness that children felt at residential schools. Interestingly enough, when Arthur finished this work he was at his most powerful and strongest time too. The painting originally started small and the end result is a painting that is over 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. The diamond willow it is framed in is battered, which represents the scars that survivors carry. The faces in the clouds, mountains rocks and water represent First Nation beliefs and signify the peace, tranquility and solitude that mother earth offers us.
This painting was a healing method for Arthur, through his work he was able to release a lot of his learned negative feelings about residential schools. In his words, Arthur says: The feelings are real and memories of the past will linger forever. With 16 years of work completed he is finally able to relate to his people and to see things in a new and positive way.
It’s like Arthur Joe says, “It is easy to forgive, but hard to forget.”